Deborah Grossman, a published author, feature writer and long-time Tri-Valley poet, was appointed Tuesday night as Pleasanton's poet laureate for a two-year term through 2011.
She succeeds the city's current poet laureate Martha Meltzer, who won recognition by the City Council for her two years of service to Pleasanton and applause from a council chamber filled with members of the Tri-Valley arts and writers community. They included former poet laureates and those serving in that position for the cities of Dublin and Livermore.
Grossman becomes the city's sixth poet laureate. The position was established in November, 1998 "to provide appropriate poetry at civic events and promote the appreciation of the literary arts in the community," according to a statement by Susan Andrade-Wax, director of parks and community services, that was read at Tuesday's council meeting.
Previous poet laureates, in addition to Meltzer, were Charlene Villella, Jim Ott, Kirk Ridgeway and Cynthia Bryant.
A poet, independent writer and editor, Grossman is the author of "Goldie and Me," a book about freedom, family and friendship through the lens of poetry. She holds numerous awards for poetry and has contributed articles to the Wine Enthusiast, San Francisco Chronicle, Napa Sonoma magazine, the Pleasanton Weekly and other publications. She was a columnist for Diablo Magazine from 2003 to 2008.
Grossman was chosen by a Poet Laureate selection committee formed by the Pleasanton Civic Arts Commission that reviewed applicants for the position, which is unpaid.
Members of the selection committee were Toby Bielawski, Las Positas College; Kathy Cordova, co-host of "In a Word" on TV30; Julie Farnsworth, Pleasanton librarian; Athena Lathos, a non-academic poet; John Loll, Civic Arts Commission; Emily West, Features Editor for the Pleasanton Weekly; Judy Wheeler, owner of Towne Center Books and president of the Pleasanton Downtown Association' David Wright, Pleasanton Cultural Arts Council; and David Young, Pleasanton school district.
The interview process was led by Susan Groshans, co-producer of the Pleasanton Poetry, Prose and Arts Festival and a columnist for the Contra Costa Times.
In accepting the poet laureate position, Grossman read a poem about the city's Firehouse Arts Center that is now under construction on Railroad Avenue:
Ode to a Bell
You were just a bell, they said,
a bell which swings back and forth
and rings and rings for us.
into yellow boots
hurrying to your beat.
Our mothers and fathers
heard your mighty song
and watched heroes face fire.
they farmed and traded and thrived.
But hopyards ceded to asphalt
horses to barn,
train whistles to silence.
You nearly succumbed
as sirens wailed up Main.
Until the Muses
moseyed into town
to light new fire.
Now boots stomp and dance
Voices chime in song, poetry and tales
teens fall into stage love.
Artists bend to draw a bell,
just a bell, they say,
which swings back and forth
and rings and rings for us.
~ Deborah Grossman ©